Sunday, February 28, 2010


This morning we had a rare treat as one of our long lost celebrants joined us again. Over a year ago he left New York, retired, on sabbatical, checking out life in a warmer climate… but to our surprise and joy, he's baaackkk! (At least for a year.)

His preaching style is legendary, yet this was my first opportunity to hear him. How one person can pack so much meaning into so few words boggles my mind... no wonder he is a legend.

The gist of his homily was the understanding of vocation. He used a quote from Parker Palmer: "It's not the life I want to live; it's the life that wants to live in me. I can relate. Although my family and friends were stunned, nobody was more surprised than I when I ended up in a convent.

The Gospel reading for today (Luke 13:31-35) describes the interchange between the Pharisees and Jesus, where Jesus tells them, "I must be on my way." ... that imperative to continue on the path that God had chosen for him, to be absolutely true to the vocation of who he was born to be… the Messiah.

Jesus was human, like us, with all the temptations, the weaknesses; yet as it is written: he did not sin. The crux of his sinlessness, then, could have been, must have been that willingness to be obedient. I never put much stock in obedience until I had to take a vow of it. Woot!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

full circle

Yes, I realize that Ash Wednesday was last week. (How could I forget?) But the church calendar and my own thought processes don't always mesh, and I've been thinking about the special symbolism of the ashes… not just the dust to dust part… that too; but the fact that the ashes come from last year's palms. The ultimate recycle.

There was a legend that after Jesus' crucifixion, the disciples went to the garbage dump and found the palm branches from the previous week's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I can't remember whether the branches were already burning or if the disciples burned them themselves, but supposedly they covered their heads with these particular ashes as a sign of their mourning.

That may be an urban legend, but it makes for continuity. The same materials used to recognize and glorify Jesus one week, were used to mourn him the next.

Life is like that. Living involves that. One person's trash is another's treasure. So we save the palms and the palm crosses we made last year to celebrate Jesus' triumph, and a year later we burn them to dust to remind ourselves of just how mortal we are.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


schiz·oid (skĭt'soid') adj.
  1. Of, relating to, or having a personality disorder marked by extreme shyness, flat affect, reclusiveness, discomfort with others, and an inability to form close relationships.

  2. Of, relating to, or suggestive of schizophrenia. No longer in scientific use.

  3. Informal Relating to or characterized by the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic elements: "This schizoid town is part resort, part sardine cannery" (Jean Anderson).
It's the third definition I was thinking of when I used the term in a meditation I wrote for Ash Wednesday. It never occurred to me that this would be offensive to anyone. But apparently many health care professionals were offended because they descended upon Episcopal Relief & Development with angry outcries.

This was not ERD's fault; it was my failure to be mindful. But as the publisher, they took the fall, and now must scramble to do damage control. They have issued an apology statement to all those who receive the meditations via email, because they take people's feelings seriously. When language usage is harmful then the responsibility must be accepted and addressed. My feeling is we both have done that.

In my life I have not ever been especially conscious of the politically correct way to do things. George Carlin is one of my heros, and he was probably the most offensive comedian to walk the earth; may he rest in peace.

And… I have to admit I'm still processing my feelings on this. People who know me (and like me) thought nothing of it. It's just the way I talk and my voice comes out in my writing. But people who don't know me, who have no reference point to hear my inflection… they are the ones I must worry about.

So now I'm second-guessing all the meditations I wrote. What else did I say that will offend somebody somewhere with a sensitivity to something I'm oblivious to? Time will tell.

This is definitely going to be a most interesting Lent.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

One of our sisters is traveling today. I imposed her ashes right before she left for the train. Last year I was traveling. Every year is different. A friend of mine sent me an excerpt from the book A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer by John Piper. I haven't read it but the passage he sent talks about how easy it is to fritter away ten minutes here, five minutes there, and by the end of the day you've not spent much time with God.

I can relate to that. Giving up the Facebook games freed up way more time than I care to admit. I loved those games. I enjoyed watching the bees swarm and pollinate the clover in Country Life; I loved deciding what to cook and how to decorate my cafe. I even liked all the stupid awards you get on Farmville; but harvesting and sending gifts and fertilizing friends' fields takes a lot of time. "Low maintenance" was what I promised myself, but I think cold turkey would have been easier. I've gone cold turkey on the really hard stuff though, so I'll keep with the plan. Besides, why penalize friends who did not give up Farmville?

Anyway, all that reacquired time translated into creative photoshop time. Here's what I came up with today:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shrove Tuesday

I am so ready for Lent this year... on so many levels for so many reasons. It may have something to do with the Lenten Meditations I was responsible for writing for Episcopal Relief & Development this year. Due to print deadlines they were completed last Advent and that was a challenge in itself... focusing on the end of the story while the rest of the world was preparing for the beginning. Anyway, all that writing certainly got me in the mood.

The point of Lent is to come closer to God. All the giving up (fasting and penance) and taking on (extra Bible study, working the soup kitchen)... those are just a means to an end. And the end is a moving target. Coming closer to God is elusive and hard to describe. It's different for everyone, even for those who think there is no God. Okay, that being said, it would be easy enough to rationalize not doing anything special for Lent. It's an option, certainly, and I'll admit I've used it in the past myself. I'm just not there anymore. I want to participate in this bleak desert experience, and in a way I've been too chicken to attempt in the past. So here it is: I'm giving up alcohol. And I'm giving up bread. And I'm shutting down the Facebook games for basic maintenance for the duration. Those are all things I enjoy, and each one in its own way gets in the way of my relationship with God. What I'll take on is still up for grabs, but that in itself may add to the desert experience.

Of course it's the night before and the road to everywhere is paved with good intentions. We shall see.

A lot of folks have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. In times past, when the Roman Catholic Church ruled with a fist instead of a hand that blessed, you had to get rid of all the fat and sugar and eggs. You can make pancakes with all that.

But here in the convent we've discovered that a day of fasting after the sugar high means nasty headaches all around. It's hard enough to fast without a headache, so we've opted for the Mardi Gras (Louisiana Gumbo) dinner. Shrimp, chicken and sweet sausage mixed with all the requisite veggies... yum. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we fast.